PARIS, AR - Commissioners of the state's tourism and economic development agencies who met today found they have a common problem: the dreary image Arkansas has among people who have never visited the state.
Two consultant groups for the Arkansas Parks & Tourism Dept. presented results of an extensive survey on travelers' tastes, impressions and preconceived notions about Arkansas. Among people who have never visited, the state ranks low among key qualities that visitors seek, including nightlife, entertainment, interesting cities and its ability to provide a one-of-a-kind experience. But the consultants say those impressions do an about face among people who have spent time in the state.
The Clinton Presidential Center tops the list as an attraction that draws visitors who would not otherwise considered coming to Arkansas. The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will be in the same category when it opens in 2010. Likewise, the coming U.S. Marshals museum in Fort Smith will be a major draw for western Arkansas.
Fifteen years ago, tourism generated about $2 billion in revenue for the state and it is now up to about $5.5 billion. Advertising by the state is $10.8 million today, up from $800,000 in 1989.